As dignitaries from around the world offered their condolences on the death of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, leaders in Minnesota reflected on his impact during his years at Macalester College and afterward.

Annan died early Saturday in the Swiss capital, Bern, at age 80.

Annan, who went on to be the first black African to lead the United Nations, completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul in 1961.

"What I want to underscore is that Kofi Annan in person and in private was at least as impressive as the public figure," Macalester President Brian Rosenberg said in a statement Saturday. "He was, without fail, gracious, patient, and thoughtful. He treated the people who worked for him with as much respect as he did the many world leaders with whom he interacted."

Several Macalester alumni took to social media to recall his influence. "He was gently spoken, diplomatic, positive and dignified, he will be missed," Jocelyn Popinchalk said in a tweet, which included a picture of Annan with her daughter.

"It made our school, a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, such a bastion of global citizenship and before it was fashionable. Thank you, Kofi," tweeted Nikki Kay.

Rosenberg said Annan was energized by young people, including the students at Macalester. "He bore witness to some of the worst atrocities, and dealt with some of the worst people, of our time, yet he never lost hope in the possibility for improvement in the human condition," he said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called Annan "a voice of optimism and hope in our increasingly complex world."

In May, Annan returned to Macalester when the Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship was named in his honor. As part of the dedication, the Nobel Peace Prize winner discussed world affairs with Rosenberg in a public one-on-one in front of thousands of students, faculty and alumni.

"It all started here in 1959 when I was a student," Annan said at the time. "The values and lessons I picked up here stayed with me throughout my life."

The U.S. and the U.N. flags on the Macalester campus will be flown at half-staff in honor of Annan.

Nicole Norfleet